If Arkansas’ hiring of Sam Pittman was vanilla, it became a little more so last week.
Mississippi State made one of the splashiest hires of the offseason by replacing Joe Moorhead with Washington State’s Mike Leach.
As you know (unless you live under a rock), Leach is popular among casual fans for his witty and unusual press conferences that often go viral. He wins enough to be considered successful and has done it in such outposts as Lubbock, Texas and Pullman, Wash.
Now, he brings his shtick to Starkville, Miss, and the Bulldogs faithful couldn’t be more tickled.
It took about a second for fans and media alike to begin to drool over Leach and Lane Kiffin as interstate rivals. The buzz has also already begun for SEC Media Days in August.
There will be media turned away at Birmingham trying to get sound bites from Kiffin, Leach, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Alabama’s Nick Saban. LSU could be defending national champions.
There will be questions about a Bama comeback, and Leach and Kiffin will be in rare form for sure, as they can rest easy with an 0-0 record.
Then, there’s Pittman.
The career offensive line coach will attract some attention being a new kid on the block and rising through the ranks, but even rookie Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, a relative unknown, will get more publicity.
That is fine with Pittman.
He doesn’t seem to be a guy who cares much about the spotlight. He’s a better speaker than you might think, and I know he commands attention in a living room, but he doesn’t crave the attention like Leach or Kiffin. He would be fine to stand in the corner, and let them flap their gums.
Leach’s bravado seems to give him more credibility. However, he was 6-6 at Wazzu this fall.
He’s 139-90, but he’s only won two division titles (one in the Big 12 and one in the Pac 12) and is 7-8 in bowl games. But there are some who would place him in the upper echelon of the SEC West elite that includes Alabama’s Nick Saban, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who all have won national titles.
And don’t forget about Orgeron who could win his first Monday night.
Leach is a good coach, but as I told some Hogs fans when the Arkansas job was open, Leach is too offensive-minded for me.
His style isn’t set up to win big games, and I’d question how he would line up in the SEC West as this would be the toughest competition his faced as a head coach.
Those questions still abound for me, yet MSU is paying him $5 million. There’s no question most think he’s light years ahead of the ol’ offensive line coach from Oklahoma.
Heck, by most pundits Pittman is ranked last among SEC West coaches and near the bottom of the entire league, maybe only ahead of Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.
The thing about Pittman is, no one knows what he will do.
There are many that think he is in over his head and his fall will come hard and swift. On the other hand, I think this exactly the kind of situation that Pittman can thrive in.
He seems to be a guy who likes his back against the wall. He’s risen through the ranks to become one of the great offensive line coaches in the country. His success has been a mix of hard work, faith and effective interpersonal communication.
No doubt, he will get this point across to his players that not many expect anything out of him or them. Talk is cheap.
Leach and Kiffin do a lot of talking. To assume they will take the SEC West by storm is a big stretch. They have a mountain to climb just like Pittman. Trying to dethrone LSU, Alabama and Auburn is unlikely for everyone else.
The way to relevancy is with hard work on the recruiting trail and in the meeting room. Pittman made some noise by hiring a great staff with innovative Kendal Briles leading the offense and former Mizzou head coach Barry Odom heading up the defense.
You couldn’t hear that splash over the hype of Kiffin and now Leach.
That’s fine with Pittman. He’s ready to shock the critics who’s expectations dropped a bit more after Leach’s hiring.